Managing the migration to open source
05-10-2007 - John Hatcher
Ken Horner, senior VP, corporate development and strategy, BakBone Software tells Data Centre Management how to maintain multi-platform environments without sacrificing data protection
Open source technologies are gaining momentum as a viable backbone for core computing requirements, resulting in soaring popularity for Linux worldwide. In fact, 2006 was a banner year for Linux, powered by a record surge in enterprise deployments as well as broad-based validations from industry heavyweights, including Oracle and Microsoft.
Oracle projects that more than 50 percent of its customers will be using Linux by 2010, if not sooner. The company's October 2006 announcement of Unbreakable Linux was meant to speed adoption by giving customers the same enterprise-level support as its cadre of database, middleware and application products. In doing so, Oracle hopes to move the Linux operating system farther up the data centre ladder while offering improved and more cost-effective support. Oracle also has announced widespread industry endorsements from leading hardware and software vendors, including IBM, Dell, HP, Intel, EMC and BMC.
In an unusual and unexpected move, Microsoft and Novell joined forces in November 2006 to unite open-source and proprietary source software. The two titans now are collaborating on the development of specific technologies, including virtualisation, to ease the integration of Windows- and Linux-based environments. According to many industry watchers, this partnership underscores the growing power of Linux while reinforcing the reality that increasing numbers of enterprises are commingling Windows and Linux.
According to Gartner Group's forecast for total storage management software by platform, Linux shows the strongest potential, with a 35.2 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) through the remainder of the decade. As the fastest growing operating system and storage management software opportunity in the market today, Linux continues to gain substantial traction in companies of all types and sizes, from mid-range organisations to large-scale enterprises running mission-critical applications.
Deployments of Linux are expected to continue rising for the foreseeable future, according to several industry analysts. For example, a report released in January 2007, from Westport, Conn.-based Saugatuck Technology Inc. revealed that 20 percent of 133 IT professionals surveyed currently have or are planning to deploy Linux by the end of this year. This activity is projected to result in nearly 50 percent of all enterprise data centres using Linux to support mission-critical applications by 2011. This year alone, IDC predicts the market share based on unit sales of Linux servers will rise from 24 percent to 33 percent. Meanwhile, a Forrester Research survey revealed 52 percent of business users are replacing Windows servers with Linux.
By no means is the ascension of Linux a death knell for Windows, which market analysts say will remain strong as more and more corporate data centres transform into multi-OS shops. According to Saugatuck Technology, over the next 12 to 24 months, Windows and Linux will remain an unstoppable duo for data centres' new application deployment scenarios.
Applications drive adoption
Perhaps the most valuable validation that Linux is ready for primetime in enterprise and data centre environments is its ever-increasing application support. Beyond already being a staple for use in web portals and web hosting as part of the LAMP stack, Linux is winning broader acceptance as a platform for mission-critical databases, messaging, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and payroll. In response, enterprise software vendors increasingly are porting applications to Linux, resulting in wide-scale deployments across all industries, including finance, retail, government, manufacturing and education.
Since shipping its core R/3 product line on Linux in 1999, SAP reports a steady increase in installations on Linux worldwide. Last year an increasing number of large-scale migrations of ERP applications migrated to Linux, mostly in quest of budget savings. Oracle also has been a long-standing contributor to the Linux community. Since producing its first commercial Linux database in 1998, Oracle has continually focused significant engineering resources to improving the Linux experience for enterprise users. More than 20 percent of Oracle's customers currently use Linux while nearly 2,000 software companies support Oracle on Linux.
MySQL AB, developer of the widely popular MySQL open source database, has gained so much market traction that Oracle tried to acquire the company in February 2006. In turning down the offer, the open-source software developer reiterated its focus on next-generation application development. With more than 10 million active installations and high-profile customers, including Yahoo, Suzuki, NASA and Alcatel, it's clear that MySQL implementations are accelerating overall Linux adoption rates.
To reinforce the growing acceptance of Linux as a host platform for business-critical databases, IDC projects that databases running on Linux and other open sources will represent 18.6 percent of the market by 2010. With a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent during this period, Linux will be second only to Windows by 2011 in host environments for databases.
Among the big Linux hardware players, IBM posts the greatest ongoing growth as the company continues to incorporate open source technologies into more and more of its products. Building upon its commitment to Linux and virtualisation technologies, IBM announced last July that its portfolio of middleware and systems platforms would support Novell's new SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 offerings. With more than 15,000 IBM Linux customer engagements worldwide, Big Blue has helped legitimise Linux as a leading server operating system.
The rising tide of Linux support also has permeated the storage arena with Linux gaining as underlying enterprise storage OS. For Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Network (SAN) deployments, Linux is attractive because it offers performance, compatibility and price advantages. Network Appliance, a world leader in unified storage solutions, has bundled Linux into its NAS and SAN products. For NetApp, some of its largest customers in the animation, financial and government industries turned to Linux and NetApp-based NFS for broad scale-out applications where a shared data environment they call a StorageGrid is being implemented.
A solid business case for Linux migrations
The ability to install more affordable hardware and take advantage of many more software choices results in higher-performance, lower-cost technology deployments. To that end, the long-term value proposition for migrating to Linux is a compelling incentive. Reducing costs has been a dominant driver for Linux adoption, especially at the expense of Unix, because the tab for software and porting is low to non-existent.
Early on, high-profile Linux migrations at Amazon and Intel received a lot of industry attention, especially when Amazon reported a 25 percent cost reduction in switching from proprietary Unix servers to Linux. Intel's migration from massive, costly Unix servers to small Linux servers is said to have saved $200 million in its first year of operation alone.
The business case for Linux migrations, especially from a Unix environment, is pretty straightforward and takes the following into consideration:
- Reduced capital expenditures
- Lowered administrative costs
- Decreased operating system license fees
- Minimal training requirements
- Greater flexibility and control in leveraging off-the-shelf and custom applications.
Often, Linux gets its start supporting a specific application or workgroup and over time permeates the organisation in growing numbers to take on larger and more critical roles in supporting corporate computing workloads. In addition to commingling with Windows, Linux also must coexist with legacy Unix as well as Apple Macintosh platforms in increasingly heterogeneous environments. While the business case to support Linux migration is a solid one, companies may find themselves on shaky ground when facing the realities of supporting a mix of different computing platforms.
The current state of multi-platform data protection
The vital role Linux now plays in the enterprise has sparked a new debate about how to incorporate it into an overall strategy that safeguards all data, regardless of the platform and application within which it resides. The conundrum only becomes more complex when taking into account all the different Linux distributions gaining traction worldwide, including AsianUX, Debian, FreeBSD, Mandriva, Miracle, Red Hat, SGI, Novell SUSE SLES, Turbolinux, etc.
While the consensus seems to favour relying on a single cross-platform solution to manage and protect heterogeneous data, the reality is many organisations have yet--or do not know how--to accomplish this feat. To make matters more complicated, many of the larger data protection vendors have been slow to support Linux, forcing end-users to run Linux hardware as clients to a Windows backup server. This type of band-aid fix typically is only sufficient until the Linux system expands to support larger, more data-intensive applications and databases. Ultimately, this approach proves inadequate and makes it difficult to meet ever-increasing backup windows.